The Consumer Expenditure Survey 2017-18 findings will not be released this year because of "data quality issues", the government said on Friday after reports that consumer spending in rural areas has plummeted for the first time in more than four decades.
"In view of the data quality issues, the Ministry has decided not to release the Consumer Expenditure Survey results of 2017-2018. The Ministry is separately examining the feasibility of conducting the next Consumer Expenditure Survey in 2020-2021 and 2021-22 after incorporating all data quality refinements in the survey process," the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said in a statement.
On Friday morning, the Business Standard newspaper reported, citing unpublished data from the National Statistical Office, that consumer spending - the total value of goods and services that households spend on - dropped for the first time since the 1970s.
Consumer demand in villages fell 8.8 per cent between July 2017 and June 2018 - the sharpest 12-month drop since 1972-73, the business daily reported.
The centre rejected the allegation that the NSO report, which was supposed to be published in June, was not released due to its "adverse findings".
"The Ministry has seen the media reports regarding consumer expenditure survey by the NSS stating that consumer spending is falling and the report has been withheld due to its 'adverse' findings. We would like to emphatically state that there is a rigorous procedure for vetting of data and reports which are produced through surveys. All such submissions which come to the ministry are draft in nature and cannot be deemed to be the final report," it said.
Listing reasons for not publishing the survey findings, the Ministry said: "The results of the survey were examined and it was noted that there was a significant increase in the divergence in not only the levels in the consumption pattern but also the direction of the change when compared to the other administrative data sources like the actual production of goods and services."
"Concerns were also raised about the ability/sensitivity of the survey instrument to capture consumption of social services by households especially on health and education," it added.
The Ministry said the matter was referred to a panel of experts which noted the discrepancies and came out with several recommendations to improve data quality.
Earlier this year, Business Standard had reported that the National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO's) periodic labour force survey suggested the country's unemployment rate was at a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. The report was not released despite being vetted by the National Statistical Commission in December, two non-independent members had alleged.
The centre had clarified it was not a report but a draft that had not been approved.